Renovations on Clowes Hall are set to begin in May. Rendering courtesy of Butler University. Rendering by Browning Day.
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Clowes Hall will undergo major renovations after receiving a $1 million grant from the Allen Whitehill Clowes Charitable Foundation.
The new design will include a new entranceway and sidewalk around the marquee. The current second floor patio will also be enclosed, and the center wall between the box office and the lobby will also be removed. These changes will open the front entryway by about 12 feet and allow more light into the building.
Aaron Hurt, the executive director of the Butler Arts and Events Center, said Clowes was originally designed to be a “temple of light,” and the glass re-design will help fulfill that wish without changing the facade of the building too much.
When the theater was opened in 1963, safety and security measures were different than they are today. With the addition of procedures such as metal detectors and bag checks, the entryway is smaller and the process of getting into the building is longer. The goal of the renovation is to welcome patrons both safely and quickly.
“You don’t want to come to a show and be frustrated because it took you forever to get in the building or you feel like you’re going to be late to the show the whole time because there’s a line,” Hurt said. “We want someone to come here and be happy and let their worries go away, not to create more worries for them.”
This project is expected to cost just over $1 million. With the grant and some previously allocated savings, the project is able to begin construction on May 1, 2021. It is anticipated to be finished before classes start in August.
The changes to the entryway are phase one of a bigger project plan. The goal of phase two is to redesign the exterior plaza in front of the building. This might include an outdoor stage where Butler students can perform for patrons before their ticketed performance. The funds are still being raised and there is no construction date scheduled for this part of the project.
The Butler Theater department performs one of their mainstage productions in Clowes every three years. Theater professor Diane Timmerman is familiar with the space and excited about the renovations.
“I think the full Indianapolis community will love the new renovation,” Timmerman said. “And really, Clowes is a draw not only for the city of Indianapolis, but really for the whole state… But they’ve really been diversifying the audiences getting a lot more folks in, a lot of schoolchildren as well. So I think it’s going to be a huge win for the whole community.”
Hurt explained that if patrons are happy with the efficiency of the new entryway, it could lead to increased ticket sales and higher caliber shows booking the space as a result.
“We need to look at how the touring industry is working if we want this building to stay relevant and stay competitive against the Murat and to make sure that we can still bring in high caliber shows, in fact, bring in higher caliber shows,” Hurt said. “[Right now] we have this one big issue.”
Sterling Powell, a first-year music performance and arts administration double major, has used Clowes Hall as a rehearsal space. He is particularly excited about the possibility of an outdoor stage, which is depicted in the official design renderings.
“I think it will give people more opportunities to perform, especially since COVID has kind of restricted that,” Powell said. “It’ll be really cool to show a representation of the music program and the arts program in that way.”
Hurt said that Clowes Hall’s mission is to be a place for communities to come together. The renovations will hopefully provide even more chances for Butler and the surrounding communities to connect through art.